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Identify and Designate Waste

Photo: Rolls of labels used to identify dangerous waste.

Waste designation is a step-by-step process for determining if a waste is a dangerous waste and what kind it is. This allows you to assign waste codes, which are used to identify it on shipping manifests and for annual reporting. Waste designation is also used to determine a business’s regulatory status and responsibilities.

Almost all wastes are called “Solid Waste” in the regulations, unless they are specially excluded from the definition of solid waste. Solid waste isn’t necessarily a physically solid material; it can be a gas, solid, semi-solid, or a liquid.

“Dangerous wastes” are a much smaller subset of solid waste. The term "hazardous waste" only includes those wastes regulated by federal Hazardous Waste regulations, while "dangerous waste" includes both hazardous waste and Washington "state-only" dangerous wastes. Every business and government facility in Washington is legally responsible for knowing if their waste is dangerous and how much of it they generate.

Count Dangerous Waste offers information on how to calculate dangerous wastes in pounds.

Product or Waste discusses how ruined products become waste.


"Designating" your waste allows you to assign Dangerous Waste waste-codes.

Washington Dangerous Waste Designation Tool is a downloadable Excel spreadsheet that helps dangerous-waste generators through the process of assigning waste codes to dangerous waste.

Categories of Dangerous Waste describes the types of dangerous wastes and the lists and waste codes associated with each waste for recordkeeping, reporting, and for determining generator status.

Identify Dangerous Wastes by Knowledge and Research describes how some wastes can be designated by generator knowledge, based on the production process or chemicals used. Material safety data sheets (often called an MSDS) or technical reports can help to designate your waste.

Identify Dangerous Wastes by Sampling and Laboratory Analysis describes when it is necessary for a business to take samples of their waste and have them tested.

Designating Dangerous Waste is a downloadable Ecology publication that describes the waste designation process.


Waste identification starts by determining if the waste is excluded from the dangerous waste regulations. Many recycled wastes or special categories of waste are excluded from classification as solid waste or are otherwise excluded from dangerous waste management requirements.  These excluded wastes do not have to be counted as generated dangerous waste, and are not reported on a generator's Annual Report to Ecology.

Beneficial Reuse/Recycling Some recyclable dangerous waste materials can be reused and turned into products. These materials are excluded from classification as solid waste because they can be beneficially reused. Although they may have some harmful qualities or contain toxic chemicals, they have value as products or as ingredients used to make products.  These materials are not managed under the dangerous waste regulations.

Exclusions by Regulation describes wastes that are conditionally excluded from dangerous waste management, but remain solid wastes. These wastes may be excluded because another agency besides Ecology already regulates the waste, or it can be recycled in a way that will not harm human health or the environment.

Related information

What Rules Apply? can help you determine your business' generator status.

Report Waste discusses the Dangerous Waste Annual Report and other reporting.

Designating Dangerous Waste is an Ecology publication that describes the waste identification process.

Pollution Prevention tells how to avoid creating waste in the first place through efficiency and least- toxic alternatives to not create waste in the first place.

Dangerous Waste Laws and Rules

Designation of Dangerous Waste is at WAC 173-303-070 in the Dangerous Waste Regulations.

Excluded Categories of Waste is at WAC 173-303-071 the Dangerous Waste Regulations.

Procedures and bases for exempting and excluding wastes is at WAC 173-303-072 in the Dangerous Waste Regulations.

Dangerous waste characteristics is at WAC 173-303-090 in the Dangerous Waste Regulations.

Dangerous waste criteria is at WAC 173-303-100 in the Dangerous Waste Regulations.

Waste Identification is an Environmental Protection Agency site that offers guidance on designating federal Hazardous Waste. Washington state rules are similar, but include state-only wastes.

Test Methods is an Environmental Protection Agency site that provide resources about testing waste.